Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 16 November 2013 / 13 Kislev 5774

Matrimonial Misjudgment

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman -
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From: Anonymous

Dear Rabbi,

A friend of mine from Seminary is getting married, and I notice she's "availing" herself of many of the free provisions offered for needy brides – which is a great thing – it's just that I get the impression that she is not so needy and I'm wondering whether this is right since it will deprive others of what they really need.

Dear Anonymous,

I understand your concern, but it is really not right for you to judge her. In most cases we have no way of knowing what a person's financial situation is, and the fact that the person is seeking help should be enough of an indication that they need it.

And even if it seems to you that she can afford these provisions on her own, she very well may not be able to do so and also afford all of the other costs, which are very great. Also, by receiving help with these items now, she may have in mind that she is relieving the burden on her newlywed husband who might be learning etc.

So you see, there are just too many variables and unknowns here to pass judgment, and in any case, it's up to the organizations to scrutinize, if they want to; it's no one else's business. And in truth, those who distribute such provisions are usually very happy for anyone who wants to benefit from their services.

One of the great Chasidic Torah scholars, Rabbi Chaim of Tsanz, was known to provision needy brides and grooms. Once, a father of a bride entered his study in the presence of Rabbi Chaim's son and another rabbi, and hinted that he lacked the money for the tallit and shtreimel customarily given to the groom. Rabbi Chaim's son questioned the father's sincerity, exclaiming that he saw the father buy these items just recently. Greatly embarrassed, the father left in haste without saying a word.

Rabbi Chaim was very upset and chastised his son for embarrassing the poor father and doubting his need. "How do you know he didn't receive the items on credit and yet needs to pay? And even if he's paid, it was most certainly at the expense of his own family's needs, which he'd obviously be embarrassed to admit! Go apologize to him immediately!"

The rabbi's son found the man, apologized profusely, but the man refused to be appeased. He demanded that the issue be brought before Rabbi Chaim. The rabbi turned to the father and said, "Listen up, don't accept my son's apology until he pledges to pay for the tallit and shtreimel himself, as well as paying for all the other expenses of the wedding too!"

Rabbi Chaim of Tsanz had such empathy for the needy that he didn't spare heavily fining his own son, who himself was an accomplished rabbi, for having questioned the honesty of a request for help for a bride and groom.

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